18 July 2011

Nissan MID4

The Nissan MID4.
One of motoring's great 'what-ifs', or so it seemed at the time the original car was announced. In reality, this design exercise (so named as in MID-engined 4-wheel-drive) contributed to the evolution of the Z Car in general and directly to the development of the 1990 Z32 300ZX. The MID4 and the MID4-II which followed it, should both be viewed as a styling exercise and a working prototype, used to test various technological advancements for Nissan in general, as well as the Z Car line.

The Nissan MID 4 was first unveiled in the Frankfurt Auto Show in September 1985 and was intended to show the world what Nissan could do with their technologies focused on the development of advanced automotive designs.
There were initially two built; the first being the pearl white example, with the red one following a few months afterward. Interestingly, the former is LHD with the latter built in RHD, so Nissan were giving serious thought to production. The red car I believe was shown at the `85 Tokyo Motor Show.
The car was mid-rear engined, and had the 3 litre V6 (VG30DETT in Nissan-speak) engine of the Z31 Fairlady Z/300ZX , except with four cams , 24 valves and which upped power to 230bhp @6000r.p.m. This evolution was later introduced in the JDM-only `86 Fairlady 300ZR (the names not a typo, in case you're wondering).

But that wasn't the most impressive thing. The car was 4WD, dividing the power transmitted 33% to the front and 67% to the rear, with the aim to achieve good balance and road behaviour at speed. This system was the first development of ATESSA - Nissan's 4WD system, adopted later for production models such as the R32 Skyline, the U12 Bluebird, the Cefiro, amongst others.

The first MID 4 also had the first evolution of the HICAS four-wheel-steering system, designed for better lateral roadholding, taking into account the lateral acceleration and the pass-through bends speed. This system, was adopted, once reworked, in the Z32 Fairlady-Z/ 90 & 300ZX, and Nissan's top line saloons and coup├ęs. 

A mock-up for a would-be  MID4 IMSA racer
Finally, the car had all-round disc brakes with an ABS system, and the bodywork was designed to be aerodynamically efficient. A little of the MID4 style influence was seen in the `86 restyling of the Z31.

1987 MID4 II

Nissan introduced the MID4 II to the public at the 1987 Tokyo Motor Show,  following the main points of the previous one, but this time in a shape that looked to many production-ready. The bodywork, was even more beautiful than the original, with a soft mixture between the Porsche 959, the Ferrari Testarossa, and their own Nissan styling. This car was tested in the U.S. and demonstrated immediately its advanced qualities.

When the MID4 II was introduced in 1987, Nissan knew that this evolution would take a bit longer to refine, and the 1987 Z31 300ZX was the beginning of the change. The Japanese maker began to put in practice all of the technology available for them in the form of prototypes, in order not only to amaze the public with the electronics technology they had, but additionally for the purpose of putting them under test conditions, with a view to being used later in production models. That was the main principle of the MID4 prototypes, the technological "key" for Nissan's aspirations of building an outstanding sports car.
The engine was basically the same 3 litre unit as the one the Z32 300ZX would use in 1990, but with 330hp (at 6800rpm) thanks to twin turbos and intercoolers. The suspension (double wishbone front, struts and four link rear) was directly used in the '90 Fairlady-Z, but not the complex 4WD system, developed with the help of  Austrian 4WD experts Steyr-Daimler-Puch. When tested by

The chassis for the 1987 MID4-II - note the twin turbos with intercoolers; 330hp with all wheel drive
Nissan management thought that the new Z32 with proper suspension set-up and the right tyres would have good roadholding without the extra cost and complexity of an all wheel drive system. Of course they considered putting it on the car, however the weight would increase and exterior design would be changed, resulting in raising the car about 2 inches. So the lucky car that got the system was the R32 Skyline GT-R, a car which became iconic arguably because of the handling it's 4WD system bestowed on it.
Nissan had its doubts weather making the MID4 or not, one option being for it to be the successor of the Z31, but finally they considered that it was too expensive to build. Ironically three years later, as had happened with original Z's development, Nissan recovered their interest in the project, but this time they were considering making a supercar, powered with the Infiniti's 4.5L V8, although that is another story.

At least three prototypes of the MID4 II were built, one ivory white (shown at the Tokyo Show), one medium metallic red , and another in titanium metallic gray used for track testing. All of them were left hand drive. I don't have many more details, but I suppose that the car was loaded with numerous electronic gadgets, seeing as with the first MID4 it was meant to be Nissan's technological showcase.
The MID4 could've been a monster of a car, had it been put into production and would have certainly done a good job of changing the public's perception of Nissan year before the Skyline did just that. Many would say that Nissan made a grave mistake not producing it, especially given the critical success of Honda's game-changing NSX. Remember, that car gave Ferrari and Porsche bloody noses and sent their respective design teams back to their drawing boards. Imagine what the MID4 might have been capable of.
On the other hand, the technology from this car filtered down to Nissan's production cars. The VG30DETT went into the Z32, ATTESA AWD system went to the GTR, and the HICAS system went into the S13 Silvia and R32 Skyline. These were all successful, profitable cars while the NSX flopped; Honda lost quite a bit of money on the NSX project.

1 comment:

  1. It's a shame the MIDI didn't get its time in the sun here in the US. With all the specs it had, they would have been flying off the lots of nissan car dealers. Oh well. Thanks for the post, btw.